Technology vs. Politics

Two interesting stories at the intersection of technology and politics. First is this Medium article by veteran tech journalist Steven Levy about how GOP primary candidate Carly Fiorina was “fleeced” by Steve Jobs many years ago, when the former was in the midst of her mostly poorly regarded stewardship of Hewlett-Packard.

Levy recounts a deal that Fiorina and Jobs struck under which Hewlett-Packard secured the right to sell a version of the iPod with the HP logo on it (underneath the Apple logo on the back, of course). This was a rare case in which Apple allowed such co-branding, and in return Apple exacted from HP a commitment to ship iTunes on all of its personal computers. That aspect of the deal was worth hundreds of millions of dollars to Apple, and they got it basically for free.

It was at CES that year that HP announced its version of the iPod. That in itself was pathetic. The company’s motto at the time was Invent! But at the biggest event of the technology world, HP’s big newsmaking announcement was that it was selling someone else’s invention. Nonetheless in our interview on January 8, just off the show floor, Fiorina boasted about cobranding the iPod as if it were an innovative coup for her own company. Apple chose her company, she told me, ‘Because HP is a company that’s an innovator. We believe innovation is our lifesblood. It’s why INVENT sits on our logo.’ So why sell someone else’s product? She described her strategy as ‘focused innovation.’ Apparently this meant throwing in the towel when a competitor came up with something really good.

It gets worse:

…Soon after HP began selling iPods, Apple came out with new, improved iPods—leaving HP to sell an obsolete device. Fiorina apparently did not secure the right to sell the most current iPods in a timely fashion, and was able to deliver newer models only months after the Apple versions were widely available.

Ouch. Read the full article at

Over at Vox, political writer Ezra Klein offers a theory of how American politics is changing. It’s a cogent, big picture view of how party primaries are being transformed by a less predictable form of campaigning, resulting in the unexpected success of candidates like Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders.

Parties have a range tools they can use to influence both electoral and legislative outcomes, but the most important one—in part because it underlies so many of the others—is elite opinion. If a critical mass of Republican Party elites think Jeb Bush is the best candidate, then the best staffers will want to work for him, the biggest donors will want to give him money, and voters will get signal after signal from trusted Republican sources that Bush deserves their vote.

Distilled to their essence, money, staff, and elite signaling all work to influence voters the same way: They shape the amount and kind of information voters possess. This happens both directly—money buys television airtime—and indirectly.

For instance, politically engaged voters get much of their information through various forms of political news; in order to generate all that political news, political reporters talk to party actors and watch fundraising numbers and note who’s hiring the top staffers; and so the opinions of those party actors ends up influencing which candidates get covered and how positively they’re portrayed, and that influences what voters end up knowing when they walk into the ballot booth.

The importance of this process—and it remains important—is diminishing. Voters have more information than ever before, and they are able to shape and choose the information they get in unprecedented ways.

Read the full article at